It was on a dreary night of November that I woke to Beelzebub poking me in the eyeball with his tail.
‘I have a surprise for you, Frankie’.
‘Begone, fiend! I am in the grip of a nervous fever that affords me no rest!’
‘But it’s movie night, dear. If you don’t show up, I’m afraid Lucy may take it amiss’.
‘What care I to suffer once again upon a sea of ice, when it was in such a place that the monstrous fiend – ’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, Frankie. What self-respecting – ’
‘Demon! Thing of evil!’
‘ – precisely – would consent to hang about on an ice field? We have minions to take care of such unpleasant tasks.’
‘Take pity on me, and leave me to my suffering!’
‘Observing your suffering is much more amusing. Come along!’
He coiled his tail artfully about my waist and yanked me out of bed and onto the floor, but though my sighs were palpable, and worn out from much usage, he took no pity on me. Out in the corridor, I spent several undignified moments being dragged along upon my posterior as the sound of thousands of souls descending from the upper circles thundered horribly in my ears.
‘It’s movie night, darlings!’ Beelzebub announced at intervals to the damned souls swirling gracefully around him and artlessly trampling me, ‘Movie night! This one’s a belter! I hope you’ll all love it as much as Frankie will!’
The slowing of Beelzebub’s pace at the demons’ entrance to the lake of ice at last permitted me to scramble to my feet, clumsy and weary of my sufferings. We passed through the security checkpoint without incident, for Beelzebub setting alight the hair of the guard who demanded an explanation of my presence happens with such wearisome regularity that it may no longer be counted an incident. Once within, we found Mr Hitchcock out on the lake, frozen up to the hips as he attempted to set up an antiquated film projector. While his ability to perform the task was as questionable as ever, he demonstrated considerable agility in avoiding the gnashing teeth of Satan’s central head and the frantic kicking of Judas’ legs between them.
Beelzebub looked on the delay with displeasure.
‘Get a move on, Alfie!’ he bellowed.
‘Get Steve out of Purgatory, you witless loon!’ Hitchcock shouted in return.
Beelzebub’s face darkened in rage, as it always did at any mention of the J-word, and he responded with an unprintable expletive that caused me great discomfort. The demon skulked off to the best seat in the house, his tail around my waist dragging me with him as the concentric rings around the lake began to fill up with legions of the damned. Mr Hitchcock kicked the ancient projector, shrieked, and cradled his maimed foot as the device whirred into life. A scuffle between a group of neo-Nazis and hyper-liberals seeking to occupy the same seats was swiftly shushed by all present as Satan let out the incoherent growl that, in these nether regions, is generally taken to mean, ‘Silence!’
We were silent.
Satan tilted his three heads towards the screen in interest, only the sound of his teeth chomping down on Judas filled the hall, and the film’s title was revealed like a serpent to sting me.
The film’s acting appeared to me to be adequate, though my dear friend Clerval, whom I mourn, would have been a better judge of it had not the fiend snuffed out his life. I do not doubt that at this moment, Clerval sits among the angels reciting poetry and thinks not of his friend Frankenstein, the unwitting author of his death.
Miss Elle Fanning, who interprets the role of Mummy, displays no hint of the coarseness of character that usually characterises women of her profession, and is as fair in appearance as a pictured cherub. I was displeased, however, to find her character’s behaviour similarly angelic, with no hint of the salacious detail that, if revealed, would have unmasked Mummy’s depravity to all the world. Would anyone laud such a woman were it generally known that she had lost her character upon her own mother’s gravestone and practiced proclivities so despicable that my dear Elizabeth would faint at the very mention of them?
I was similarly displeased at Miss Fanning’s portrayal of Mummy as an overconfident hothead, and as what Miss Brontë informs me is called a young lady of Feminist (wherever that might be) principles. Perhaps the makers of this film, since they do not know Mummy’s mind, can never know the doubts she felt sitting among such libertine giants of poetry as Shelley and Byron. How insignificant she felt, and how little; like a minnow who has unwittingly strayed into a playground of sharks. It is also clear that the filmmakers know nothing of the ambition that created me, nor are they aware of the hellish despair and endless parade of dead infants that kept me alive afterwards. Instead, Mummy’s life, and my birth, are portrayed as being motivated by such flimsy concepts as the decline of romantic love and abandonment by one’s lover. While I was naturally only too glad to see Mummy reduced to a being lesser than what she truly was (dreadful woman!), I was most put out at the implication that I myself was the product of such womanish scruples.
While Miss Fanning’s performance is undoubtedly flawed, it does seem, at the very least, to be solid, and the lady an accomplished practitioner of her art. However, when Messrs Booth and Sturridge appeared for the first time in their roles as Shelley and Byron, guffaws echoed around the lake of ice from both damned and demonic, and many began to shout, and throw things. Finally, the general hilarity obliged the officials to briefly halt the film and attempt to restore order as the real Shelley and Byron, seated across the lake from myself and the demon Beelzebub, were pelted with wine bottles, ink bottles, French letters, hookahs and rubber phalluses by those present. Byron shouted and returned fire, hurling the wine bottles back at his attackers while carefully placing the phalluses in a neat row on his seat. Shelley gathered up the French letters and presented them all to the Countess Báthory, who let out a savage shriek and attempted to bite him.
It pains me to say that the reaction of the damned to these two insufferable fools far surpassed the film’s portrayal of said fools. Messrs Booth and Sturridge sparkle with all the dazzling monotony of the least talented lecturers of Ingolstadt and make weeks of disorderly behaviour seem duller than the study of literature. When the film’s Lord Byron attempted to congratulate the film’s Shelley on the success of his great creation, Frankenstein, the real Lord Byron rose to his feet, priapic as ever and left the lake shouting to himself in Greek, his spindly limbs seeming to crunch and break with each new step he took.
Yet while I sat contemplating Shelley and Byron’s seeming far more entertaining dead than alive, I kept waiting in dread for myself. Where was I? Where was Frankenstein? What horrors were in store for me once my name was mentioned on screen?
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe? Nothing, nothing, ALMOST NOTHING of my birth, my creation, my existence, my imprisonment in these dark halls and in the dusty pages of books…none of it has found its way into this erroneous chronicle of Mummy’s life! How can this film boast of Mummy’s erstwhile greatness in moulding me Frankenstein when it does not deign to speak my name?
The film’s portrayal of my hideous promotion from the darkness of Mummy’s imagination resembles a child’s picture of a thing that he has never seen or felt; a strange, sanitised drawing that can never prepare a medical student for the sight of a corpse. There was nothing of the horror of that dreadful night, no sign of the frightfulness of the darkness that surrounded me, no mark of the pain of my being called into a world that I did not wish to inhabit. My birth was not spotless, but a moment of ghastly inspiration that would condemn me to damnation. Miss Fanning gives no indication of my dread, or indeed of Mummy’s. My birth was not clean and free of pain. In reality, Mummy’s terror was so acute that I was forced to spring, Athena-like, from her brain in a manner that caused her much pain and me much confusion.
As the damned around me began to laugh at my sterile, contrived birth upon the screen, I felt my hopes for deliverance wither and die, for in these nether regions, Satan’s awful taste in films can often lead to an alteration in one’s position. The Marquis de Sade, for instance, was elevated from Circle Six to Circle Two after Quills and Julius Caesar from Circle Seven to Circle One after Cleopatra. After this miserable film and my ineffectual role in it, I now know that there will be no alteration in my status here. How may I be pardoned if I am not even remembered? How may I hope for salvation, when I, Mummy’s most famous child, am excluded from the story of her life? I am condemned to spend the rest of my days wandering these draughty halls in listless indolence, being accosted by other traitors to God and his subjects, and this is Beelzebub’s way of telling me so. He cannot release me, and he will not. He loves tormenting me too much.
Beside me, I could feel the demon shaking with laughter, his tail trembling in delight as fireballs shot ecstatically from his nostrils. I felt the sweat of my one of my fevers beginning to gather on my brow, and I turned to him in restless agony.
‘You fiend!’ I shouted.
‘My friend!’ he cried, and enveloped me in a crushing embrace.